Tigers eager for home tennis matches

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 9:18 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA – After getting two victories in Texas on Feb. 14, the Missouri women’s tennis team returns home this weekend for a month-long stretch of matches.

The Tigers defeated Southern Methodist University, ranked No. 70 heading into the match, 5-2 in Dallas this past Saturday.  In the afternoon, MU recorded another win, sweeping all seven matches against Stephen F. Austin University.

Friday's match

Drake University at Missouri

When: Feb. 20 at 5 p.m.

Where: Green Tennis Center
Columbia, Mo.

The win over SMU was big for the players’ confidence.

“All of last year, we never had a win that was in the rankings, so it’s great to start off the season this well,” sophomore Maureen Modesto said.

Now the Tigers hope that momentum can stay with them at home.  MU has yet to play a home match this spring, while the team has played five road matches plus a tournament in Florida in January.

“Traveling, while it’s fun, it gets pretty tiresome, so I think we’re all pretty excited to be home for a while,” sophomore Mallory Weber said.

Coach Blake Starkey said he hopes home-court provides an advantage heading into the upcoming matches.

“We’ve got nothing but challenges in front of us,” Starkey said.

Getting strong support from fans is key to helping the team thrive at home, he said.

“I hope people from the community come out and watch the girls play,” Starkey said.  “They’ve been working so hard and they deserve to have people here.”

With strong results already this season, Starkey said he’s proud of how his players are playing, but he said he knows they are capable of better.

“I think we’ve got another gear that we haven’t hit yet,” Starkey said.

MU will have two chances to hit that gear this weekend, starting Friday with a match against Drake at 5 p.m.  Then, the Tigers will be back at the Green Tennis Center at 2 p.m. Saturday to take on No. 66 Minnesota.

The players said playing consecutive days will be tough, but after playing two matches in one day in Texas, they feel as prepared as possible.

“I think it’ll be a challenge, but I think Friday will definitely be a good warm up for us to get out here and get loose and get ready for Saturday,” Weber said.

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